2018 Midterms

*My article was re-published on Thrive Global.


I voted!

(Who cares?)

I DO!

This is significant to me because even though I’ve been able to vote for about 18 years now, and despite being a registered voter in my hometown of Queens, NYC this is actually the first time I’ve voted.

My husband and I were able to vote early and by mail in the state of Ohio because of his military status. (I even got a sticker that says: I voted by mail!) The Midterms are a month away.

In New York City, Election Day is actually a holiday in lots of businesses and organizations, schools are even closed for it; but that’s not the case in many states — which I’ve always felt was a form of voter suppression. I mean, if you’re a struggling worker trying to make ends meet, you’re probably not going to be able to take a day off work on a Tuesday to go stand in line to vote. It should be on a Sunday, I think — or all states should allow for absentee ballot voting.

I didn’t really care who “won” in 2016; I mean, after all, I didn’t even vote, so how much could I have cared, right? However, I got upset as the current presidency progressed and all of the low moments in our country that have transpired since. I felt I was complacent and that I didn’t have a right to complain because I didn’t even cast a vote.

It’s a privilege that many truly takes for granted, especially in our country’s history, where many have died or been persecuted in some way to be able to vote… but I still maintained that I have no right to complain because I didn’t vote.

Even voting this time was no easy task (and I was determined!). First, despite never casting a vote in Queens, NYC I still had to de-register myself. I mailed a change of voter registration form (like 3 times, at least!) requesting to be removed from New York’s voter registration, but every time I checked online, my name was still registered. After two months, I even emailed the County Board of Elections to remove me, and got an email reply that stated I need to send in a change of voter registration form (whoever is in charge is sleeping on the job over there!). Seriously, fix yourself Queens County Board of Elections!!!

I did some Google research and found that because my husband is in the military, I can change my voter registration using a federal form instead of a state one (much more user friendly). I mailed it in as well as emailed it to Ohio (during my Google research I found that when you register in a new state, it’s up to that state’s county Board of Elections to request your removal from your old registration).

While being a native to a metropolis like NYC has made everything more easily accessible and available, there are some things that less populated areas (and states) do have advantages in. When I lived in Iowa, I never had to wait to be seen in the ER; getting my driver’s license was as easy as walking 2 blocks away and spending about 10 minutes at the courthouse… I figured I would have better luck with the state of Ohio than the city of New York.

I looked online after a few weeks and I was still not registered to vote in Ohio, but they did send my husband’s absentee ballot for the Ohio Primary (which meant my forms were received because his absentee ballot request was mailed (and emailed) with my forms). I decided to give it one more go, I mailed (and email) my forms for the General Election to Cincinnati (the Hamilton County Board of Elections), but this time I used the state form instead of the federal form; and on the last page where my signature was needed, on the blank area of the form I wrote for Hamilton County to request to de-register me from Queens County in New York City — and even wrote out the contact name, address, and telephone number for the Queens County Board of Elections.

Surprisingly, when I checked in August, I was registered (finally) in Ohio, as well as de-register in NYC. It might have been because of the special election in Ohio during August that made election workers more diligent in Hamilton County, or that we were nearing the Midterms and election workers just did their job more efficiently — I’m not sure, actually.

It’s obstacles like these that I am sure discourages many from voting (besides from the fact that no one likes standing in long lines); but I also felt very significant, as crazy as that sounds.

I did not donate money, I did not fight a war, I did not volunteer, I did not try to get others to vote, I did not protest or march, or became a part of a historical movement (there were many such movements to choose from)… I did none of that, but I spent a whole summer making sure that I would be able to use my privilege as an American to vote. I felt significant because MY vote counts!

The best I can compare it to is a marathon. You don’t have to come in first, or even at the top, but just crossing the finish-line is significant.

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Lovebirds ♡

#Throwback to the NYC Botanical Garden… seems like a lifetime ago. ♡ — Even Danny’s hair is so blonde then (this was after he grew it out and stopped shaving his head!)… little Danny has daddy’s hair, can’t believe he’s now 4-months old. ♡

The Graduate …

Right above my recliner, what I’ve called my wall of shameless self-pride… I hung up my university degrees and my two newly arrived certificates.

$2,500 later, I am now a recognized certified educator for World History and US History (5th-12th grade) in 12 states, internationally, in private schools, and the US Department of Education. I can now argue with annoying strangers on Facebook about geo-politics, and when they argue back, I can say to them, “And what are your credentials?!” Haha!

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Religion, Culture, and Fishy Fridays

Jews and Arabs have very similar beliefs (it’s so ironic that they are so politically against each other), and really it’s Christians who are the lone man out.

Christians don’t follow the laws of circumcision or dietary restrictions that the Jews and Arabs believe in, especially the ban on pork (which they both abstain from, according to the laws written in Exodus and Leviticus). If we’re going to be historical about it, the followers of Jesus were Jews. Jesus was a Jew. During the Jewish diaspora of the Roman Empire, many men gave up their traditions to assimilate with the Romans, who themselves are very similar to the Greeks. I mean, common sense says that you can’t tell a bunch of people who live on a peninsula that they can’t eat shellfish. But if you’re going to be eating lobsters and crabs, you might as well eat pork too! So Christianity is actually a very lax religion compare to Judaism and Islam.

In Catholicism, Catholics do abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. One of the symbolism for Christianity (besides from the infamous cross) is a symbol of a fish. During the Jewish diaspora of the Roman Empire, you obviously didn’t walk around with a crucifix, which is the strong association of Jesus in the modern era; so other Jewish followers that believed Jesus was the Christ (and therefore called Christians) would draw a symbol of a fish to let others know that they were also followers, to avoid persecution.

Why? Because most of Jesus’ apostles were originally fishermen. They were to become “fishers of men” for God. Catholics believe in missionary work because that’s what the apostles did, but the Catholic Church sends men off to Africa or India or some place like that; to help the poor, the sick, the heathens… not like the Mormons or Jehovahs that come knocking on your door when you’re in your pajamas — but I digress, so back to the fish!

During Jesus’ ministries, thousands gathered to hear him preach. From a few loaves of bread and fish he fed thousands, so fish is a very important food in Christianity (I mean, the man walked on water, didn’t he?). And after his resurrection, he cooked fish for his apostles. I’d say back in the day Jesus and Peter were seafood lovers like me.

Did you know that the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Friday was the reason for the creation of McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sandwich? Because hamburger sales dropped off noticeably on Fridays, the owner of the franchise in Cincinnati introduced the new offering, and sales picked up again. Sadly, many Catholics are not aware that the Friday abstinence rule is still in effect. The post-Vatican-II modification in Church law only allowed the consumption of meat if some other sacrifice or good work was substituted in its place. (This is not even a problem with me at all. I am definitely not a meat lover.)

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I’m not religious, at least not anymore; but I do believe that our religious beliefs provide us the moral compass of our values. Like confessing sins for absolution (the truth shall set you free), and penance for redemption (do to others as you want done to yourself). Lent is actually an awesome 40 days because I LOVE fish.

My favorite fish dish is very simple. Cantonese whole steamed fish. A steamed whole fish with ginger, scallion and cilantro is a big favorite on any Chinese table, and it’s almost always served at holiday meals and special occasions. This is definitely true for Cantonese families at formal wedding and Chinese New Year banquets, but also for family gatherings at home. (For those from Shanghai and other parts of China, you may get a braised fish instead, which is also a great meal.) There are many whole fish recipes that vary in cooking methods and flavors depending upon where you are in China.

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So I know most people think their mom is the greatest cook ever, but my mom really is. Like, seriously, my mom cooks better than yours. It’s just a fact. ♡ My mom is currently in Hong Kong with my uncle. They left after Chinese New Year for a month. We still have land in China, and each year one of my uncles or aunts, or both, goes to make sure our homestead is being maintained by whomever they left in charge.

My mom is a first generation American, so I’ve been really spoiled when it comes to food. Even now, in her 60s, she still doesn’t know how to use a microwave or the washer! My brother bought her a washing machine and she basically uses it as a shelf to stack things on. But now that I’m older, I realized how spoiled I am with all her cooking. (She’s the reason men go broke buying me lobsters!) Nothing I ate growing up ever came from a can, package, or a box; everything was fresh and made from scratch. I didn’t grow up eating processed foods, sugar, junk, soda, etc.

I remember weekends from my childhood of going to Chinatown with my mom to buy food. The best was getting crabs. The fishmongers would have barrels of live crabs, and I get to choose them. They were then put into a big, thick brown paper bag. On the train, I’d keep looking inside the bag and poking them to make sure they were still alive. When we got home, my mom would dump them in the sink, and I’d continue to poke at them with a chopstick… sometimes I tried to race them, or have them fight each other. (Once, one of them clamp on to my forefinger and it hurt so bad!)

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I’m going to show you how to prepare a whole fish (including how to serve it at the table!), so you can impress your friends (or perhaps your Chinese in-laws)… authentic Chinese food is extremely healthy (have you ever seen a fat Chinese person??? — and my people live until they’re in their 90s at least).

You can steam just about any whole fish that comes in good eating sizes (1 to 2 pounds). Sea bass is a common fish used for steaming in Chinese cooking, but I’ve found the meat is not as delicate as striped bass. Flat fish like flounder, fluke, or grey sole are also very good for steaming as well. I grew up by the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s what I miss the most — fresh seafood. (I don’t like freshwater stuff, especially catfish.) For those of you who cannot easily access whole fresh fish, using fish filets are the next best thing and usually easier to prepare.

If you can get fresh fish, don’t be intimidated by this dish. The hardest part is simply figuring out how you’re going to steam it. Once you have your steaming arrangement worked out, it is really easy to prepare and will impress your family and guests.

YOU’LL NEED:

whole fish, cleaned
fresh ginger, finely julienned
scallions, finely julienned with green and white parts separated
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

After you get your fish home from the market, it’s important to cook it as soon as possible. The fishmongers in Chinatown sells live fish, so it is super fresh. (Some restaurants also sell fresh fish from live tanks, but be prepared to pay a ridiculous price.) At Chinese restaurants, fish is often sold by the pound since they vary in size, and it is not unusual for a 1 ½ pound striped bass to cost $30 or more. By contrast, we purchased a fresh fish to cook at home for $8, I think the most my mom ever bought one was for $13. The fishmongers usually does all the messy work of gutting and scaling it for you too, for free.

There is always some work to be done to process your fish before cooking, no matter how good your fishmonger is though. Of course, you can ask him to do all the steps below. I’m going to get pretty detailed, so if you’re squeamish, you might want to just head over to the steamed fish recipe right about now.

PREPARING THE FISH

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1. Remove any scales from your fish using a sharp knife. The areas to look for are the belly and the edges of the fish including the top, near the dorsal fins, and the head.

2. Cut off any fins with kitchen shears. They are pretty tough, so be careful with this step. Leave the tail and head intact for presentation.

3. Look at the cavity, and you should see the backbone. You may also see a membrane that you should pierce and cut, revealing a blood line near the bone. Run your finger or a spoon across it to clean it thoroughly.

4. Check the head and gills. You should not see any gills left, and if there are, remove them with the kitchen shears and rinse the area clean. (Folks who like dining on the fish head will appreciate this step, like my mom!… Ever since I was a kid, my favorite part of the fish was the eyes, ha!)

5. Give the fish a final rinse, shake off the excess water (no need to pat it dry) and transfer to a plate for steaming. No salt, seasoning, or wine should be used on the fish before steaming. (Repeat. Nothing on the fresh fish before steaming!)

Ok you’re ready to cook the dish!

For steaming, I used an elongated plate. It’s simple enough. I used a wok and metal steam rack… I can’t think of any Chinese person without a wok (no matter how Americanized they are!).

Steam for about 10 minutes (more time if you have a fish that’s bigger than 1.5 pounds). Next, carefully pour out all of the liquid accumulated on the plate from steaming, and spread half of the ginger, the green portions of the scallion, and the cilantro over the fish.

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Heat oil and the other half of the ginger in a saucepan until the ginger begins to sizzle, and add soy sauce. Once simmering, add the white portions of the scallion and stir until the liquid begins to simmer and sizzle once again. (Sorry about measurements, I just eyeball everything — it’s probably why I can’t bake!)

The fish should look spectacular, so you’ll want to present it whole (it should definitely be the last dish prepared so you can serve it right away). Once everyone has oo’ed and aahh’ed at the table, you could just dig in (many Chinese families do), or you could remove some of the bones and prepare it for your guests at the table. It’s like carving the turkey at Thanksgiving, you can bring it back to the kitchen and prepare it there as well. ♡

Dante Caterers Review — East Elmhurst, NY

I went here for a wedding and I had my own wedding here.  The price is one of the most affordable pricing for a catering/reception hall in NYC!  There is a parking lot too, so that also makes it a good recommendation; but it’s in a strip-mall area, so not very visually appealing.  I would say that the reception alone came out to about $3,500 — we did have a full bar service (which I think for that price is very reasonable, since alcohol beverages are so expensive); the menu was also very nice for such a reasonable price… but our reception was at noon though, which is definitely not “peak hours” for any venue.

I had a lot of varieties for my cocktail hour, and there was a 3-course meal for my reception, with 3 choices for my main course.  They also provided a beautiful three-tier cake with a topping and even had table centerpieces for me, so it was very all-inclusive.  If you have your reception during “off hours” it helps a lot with the pricing.  They also have a number of rooms to choose from to host your event, which also can mean multiple events happening simultaneously too. There is a “bridal suite”, but it’s a closet-like room though.

It’s a nice place for a wedding reception if you’re on a tight or limited budget. You can definitely have a nice reception within a $5,000 limit — which is considered “inexpensive” for NYC.